Tech

Kailh Low-Profile Switches: Havit KB395L And Gamdias Hermes M3 RGB, Hands On

Primarily, the low-profile options on the market all have exceedingly short travel, which results in a lighter typing feel despite the fact that the weights for some are relatively high (50gf, 60gf, etc.). That light feel will drive some people nuts. However, there’s a growing chorus of users who have quietly been clearing their throats and noting that they actually kind of like typing on their chiclet-style laptop keyboards just as much as a desktop mechanical plank, but gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have short mechanical switches under those caps?

If you’re one of those people, we have great news for you: Typing on these keyboards is your low-profile dream come true.

Havit HV-KB395L

When we first plopped the Havit HV-KB395L onto our desk, a few things struck us immediately: First, the thing slides around like crazy. It’s quite light (that was the second thing we noticed), which doesn’t help, but it also lacks rubber feet at the top part of the underside of the keyboard (there are two on the bottom part). If you want stability, you’ll need to flip out the rubber-tipped feet, but we found that doing so pitched the KB395L at an uncomfortable typing angle.

The keycap font is also striking because the characters are enormous. We were a little surprised to find a full-size, 104-key layout–one would think that it makes more sense to pair a slim and light design with a smaller footprint–but Havit does offer another keyboard, the KB390L, that has the TKL form factor and the same switches.

 

Often when we begin evaluating a new keyboard, it takes up to a day or more to get comfortable with it. We frequently pivot from a keyboard with one distinct type of switch to another–on purpose, to get a clearer feel for each new plank–but doing so can be jarring and often slows down our typing for a while. Not so with the KB395L; it took us just a few minutes to adjust from a mechanical keyboard with standard-size switches to this low-profile model. If anything, our typing speed picked up after just five minutes with this thing. By design, it seems to demand a lighter touch, and that translated into fleeter-fingered typing.

The speed was further aided by the fact that the keyboard and keycaps are also lower-profile than a more standard board, which let us position our hands flatter than usual. A good wrist rest will offer this same advantage on a more standard-sized keyboard, of course. The KB395L doesn’t have one, but with such a flat profile, you don’t need one.

With all of the above, you also get that satisfying Blue-switch click. Well, mostof that satisfying Blue-switch click. The click of the Kailh PG1350 is lighter and higher-pitched than the standard Kailh Blue switch, and across an entire keyboard’s worth of switches, the difference in typing sound is notable.

This is where we insert the disclaimer that the above is quite subjective. We enjoy the feel of a wide variety of switches, and that includes many lighter switches. But that’s not true for everyone; some people can’t stand anything under 60g, for instance. Others love or hate clicky Blue switches. And so on unto infinity.

That is all to say that this light, clicky, swift, flat typing experience is a particular one that will not appeal to everyone. But it’s perfect for a certain type of, er, typer.

When it comes to gaming, our opinion of the KB395L is less effusive. Don’t get us wrong, it’s all there–the solid, consistent feel of the mechanical switches, the click, etc.–but it’s just missing that je ne sais quoi. Ironically, that light and breezy feeling that makes the typing experience so fluid and fast feels lacking in the heat of an FPS battle. We noticed this most clearly any time we typed into the in-game chat–suddenly, there was that lovely lightness again–and then when we went back to WASD-ing, that pleasant sensation evaporated. However, we never had any issues with accidental keypresses despite the shallower travel, neither while typing nor while gaming.

With thin switches comes a thin chassis, and indeed, the KB395L is slim at just 8.35-13.45 mm. Unfortunately, the thinness comes at a cost: The KB395L has terrible flexion issues. If you bang especially hard on the keys, you can feel and see the keyboard bend in the middle. To be frank, it didn’t both us all that much–and if you type like a normal, non-angry person, you won’t have a problem there, but the keyboard does feel a bit flimsy. (The Gamdias Hermes M3 RGB suffers less here because its chassis isn’t as wide and is thus stronger in the middle.)

The switches are top plate-mounted, too, which let Havit essentially build the KB395L with a top plate/PCB and a thin bottom–two pieces with almost no space in the middle. The top plate is aluminum. That flat, dense construction, combined with the lighter switch click, makes for a fairly subdued auditory experience. If you bend down and listen closely, you can hear the switches ping-ping-pinging, but there’s just nothing to amplify that noise. (Some keyboard designs put the PCB and switches into a bowl-like lower chassis that reflects all those little noises right back at your face.)

The KB395L has accompanying software that should unlock features such as macro recording, lighting adjustments, and more. You do get plenty of onboard lighting controls, too.

Gamdias Hermes M3 RGB

Perhaps a little more appropriate for the slim design, the Gamdias Hermes M3 RGB comes in a TKL form factor, resulting in a completely compact little keyboard. Given the fact that the chassis of the KB395L and Hermes M3 RGB look almost exactly the same (although they have slightly different heights), employ a removable micro USB cable, have nearly identical keycaps (although with different fonts), and use the same switches, the typing feel on these two planks is strikingly similar.

Of course, the Hermes M3 RGB is even lighter by dint of the smaller form factor. In terms of evaluating the subjective typing performance, gaming performance, and noise profile of this keyboard, we’d simply echo everything we said about the KB395L. Indeed, these keyboards are two peas in a pod.

The Hermes M3 RGB enjoys the support of Gamdias’ Hera software, which lets you handle lighting configurations and programmability. You also get some onboard controls to execute your macros, as well as other perks. The LEDs on both keyboards appear suspiciously dim; they actually may be the same LEDs, and controllers, too. But that’s neither here nor there for now.

It’s worth noting that Gamdias has another low-profile switch keyboard in its stable, the Hermes P3 RGB, which has Gamdias-branded low-profile switches (Blue/Brown/Red/Black).